Case Study: Pygmalion/My Fair Lady

In some ages authors write openly about prostitution, in other ages they write in a code to which future readers lack the key. For example, we all remember Eliza Doolittle insisting on her respectability, and yet it is highly improbable that in 1912 a young Covent Garden flower-seller was not a prostitute, at least part-time – in the same way as many housemaids moonlighted on the game. The flowers were just cover. Even if Eliza was telling the truth – “I’m a good girl, I am!” – and had not begun to hook, in real life she would have started, sooner or later. Everyone in Shaw’s time would have known this, but by the time the musical, and later the film of the musical, was made, at least some of the audience may have been taking the flower-selling at face value. And so the second remake, Pretty Woman, had to spell it out in mile-high letters.

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